What does it mean to be a professional? We talk about acting professionally in many situations, and we often claim that we are professionals. We all claim to like to deal with someone who is a “professional” or who is treating us “professionally”.
When I think of being professional, I think of people that I admire as good communicators, people with specific knowledge or people who are able to present themselves in a way that others respect. Here are a few tips to engaging with others as a professional:
- Communicate effectively. Be a good listener and validate what someone else is saying, even if you don’t agree with them. State what you need to say concisely and clearly. Be ready to explain things to others in an understandable way, even if you think what you are saying is obvious. Know the “why’s” and the “how’s” behind what you need to communicate.
- Be patient. Everyone is in a hurry and most people are doing their very best. Even if you feel like your agenda is the most important, understand that most people feel their agendas are the most important. Ideas can be repetitive or even come across as ridiculous. Try to find the positives in whatever someone is saying or doing and be patient with those who are struggling to be patient. They are having an emotional response. Your job, as a professional, is to manage your emotions. Take your impatience out later at the gym.
- Dress appropriately for the situation. We do not all have to wear suits and have our nails manicured. But it does matter how you present yourself. If you are wearing yoga pants and a hoodie to a meeting, people are automatically going to make assumptions about you. Dress conservatively and neutrally for what you are doing. Nurses wear scrubs. Construction workers wear work pants. Horse people wear jeans and boots. But if you are going to meet the CEO of a company, dress for it! First impressions do matter.
- Don’t make assumptions. We all do it, but let someone speak and show you what the mean before passing judgement. Even if a full idea doesn’t make sense, there are often pieces that do. We miss a lot if we assume that someone is unqualified or underqualified before we learn something about them.
- Know your skills. We ALL have different skill sets. Know what you are good at and what your knowledge base is. Don’t be afraid to learn from others or ask questions. No one likes a person who pretends to know more than they do. We all respect someone who has something specific that they know a lot about or can do really well. Knowing your skills helps you identify what you can already do well and what you might need to improve on. Just be honest about this.